After years of discussions, council set to vote on downtown URA |

After years of discussions, council set to vote on downtown URA

A sketch shows what Yampa Street could look like with a promenade. Visions for additional sidewalks and infrastructure on Yampa date back at least three decades.

If you go

The Steamboat Springs City Council meeting starts at 5 p.m. in Citizens Hall on 10th Street. Public comment is accepted at the time of the agenda item. Public comment on items not on the agenda is accepted at 7 p.m. or at the end of the meeting, whichever comes first.

Other agenda highlights

The downtown URA isn't the only big item on council's agenda Tuesday night. The council will hear a presentation on a city staff compensation survey that was recently conducted. It will also talk about the results of a community survey the city just got back. Look for stories on these items in upcoming issues of the Steamboat Today.

— The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night is set to decide whether to declare the city’s downtown corridor blighted and use tax increment financing to pay for millions of dollars worth of new sidewalks and other basic infrastructure in the area.

But first, the public will again have a chance to weigh in on the proposed urban renewal plan during a public hearing.

And City Council President Bart Kounovsky said he expects some new changes to the state’s urban renewal laws will make the council pause before it ultimately decides how to fund the downtown improvements.

Tuesday’s scheduled vote to approve the downtown urban renewal plan comes almost three years after city staff first started pursuing the plan that could be financed with tax increment financing.

In recent months, the possible financing mechanism for the plan has received mixed public opinion.

Several prominent business leaders have praised the urban renewal plan and tax increment financing. They say the improvements will spur new private development and make Steamboat more competitive with other ski towns when it comes to attracting visitors.

Opponents of the urban renewal plan have questioned a consultant’s findings of blight in the downtown corridor, and believe the tax tool would unjustly redirect property tax increment from other taxing entities toward the improvement projects.

The Steamboat Springs School Board believes tax increment financing will make the district more dependent on state funding in the future and harm the district financially.

In addition, Routt County commissioners believe private investment and development will occur in the downtown corridor regardless of whether the improvements occur.

The commissioners feel the use of tax increment financing would force the county to give up control of property tax increment it would otherwise get without the improvements.

City staff has a different view than that of the school district and the county.

The city has waited decades for private developers to complete missing sidewalk links, they say, but the policy hasn’t produced the desired result.

They believe the improvements will spur private development and tax increment financing will allow this development to occur more quickly. And they point to the urban renewal area at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, which built the promenade and other infrastructure, as a success.

Tax increment financing sets aside future growth in city sales tax revenues and property taxes from new development for the improvement projects.

A majority of the Steamboat Springs City Council appeared ready in April to move ahead with the financing tool.

However, some changes to the state’s urban renewal laws that were recently passed are poised to impact council’s consideration of a downtown URA Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to the discussion tomorrow night,” Kounovsky said. “I know we have been diligently moving forward with this. At the same time, things have been changing at the state capitol in Denver, and I think those changes will make us pause to see how best to fund the downtown improvements.”

The changes Kounovsky refers to ultimately give other taxing entities more of a say in how municipalities use tax increment financing.

After Jan. 1, any new urban renewal authority will be required to have representation on its board from an elected school board member, a board member of a special taxing district and a board member appointed by the county commissioners.

The new law also requires cities to negotiate with other taxing entities over the proportion of sales and property tax increment that is dedicated to urban renewal projects. If an agreement can’t be reached, then the municipality must enter mediation with the other entities.

If the council approves the urban renewal plan area Tuesday, it could take some more time to discuss the funding tool before making any decision on it.

“If we go forward with the URA, I would push very hard for going under the new guidelines that were set forth during the legislative session,” Kounovsky said. “That would be the right and proper thing to do.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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